STEWARD YOUR MATERIAL POSSESSIONS SHREWDLY AND FAITHFULLY SO THAT THEY DON’T RULE OVER YOU BUT SERVE GOD’S KINGDOM PURPOSES
The entirety of Chapter 16 revolves around money issues. Jesus had a lot to say about money and material possessions. This topic follows naturally from what was presented in the previous chapter.
Donald Miller: The outstanding symptom of the prodigal’s independence of his father was the selfish use of possessions (15:13). For Kingdom members, therefore, the central mark of whose life should be obedience to God’s will, the unselfish use of possessions for the good of others is demanded. This is set forth in an unusual but effective way in Jesus’ story of the Unfaithful Steward.
The concepts of stewardship of possessions, of faithfulness in small things translating to faithfulness in greater things, of investing for eternity – all converge in this interesting story of the irresponsible but shrewd steward. The bottom line conclusion drawn by Jesus is that we are loyal either to God or to money … but not to both.
I. (:1-8) 2 KEY INSIGHTS REGARDING THE CHRISTIAN AND MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
“Now He was also saying to the disciples,”
A. (:1-2) Steward Your Material Possessions Faithfully In Light of Eternal Accountability
1. (:1) Report of Unfaithful Stewardship
“There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and this steward was reported to him as squandering his possessions.”
Morris: The nature of his job made it easy for him to misappropriate funds for his own purposes.
Deffinbaugh: I take it that this means he must have helped himself to too much that belonged to his master. I can imagine that in our culture this would mean padded expense accounts, lavish meals and accommodations, a limousine, and the like. This man was consuming much of his master’s wealth, but producing very little. He was not working for his master, but for himself. Unlike Joseph, who saw his stewardship as a sacred trust, and who thus refused to “use” his master’s wife, this steward seems to have helped himself to everything that was within his reach.
2. (:2) Report of Accountability
“And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’”
Geldenhuys: The owner apparently did not suspect the steward of conscious dishonesty, but thought that he had merely been irresponsible and extravagant in his management. So he did not have him forthwith arrested and punished for deceit or theft, but only informed him that he could no longer be his steward.
MacArthur: Can I tell you something about business, a little hint? This is a bad way to do business. If you’re going to fire someone for mismanagement they’re gone today. They’re gone today, because if they would treat your possessions that way when there’s accountability, responsibility, and a price to pay, you don’t want to give them any extra time to do more damage when you have no recourse. If you’re fired, you need to be out of there. If it’s for malfeasance, irresponsibility, embezzlement, etc., if you have cause to fire someone it’s over the day you fire them. Otherwise if they hang around they’re going to use their inside opportunity for vengeance or more personal gain.
B. (:3-8) Steward Your Material Possessions Shrewdly to Make Friends for Eternity
1. (:3-4) Strategic Dilemma – I Need a Game Plan
a. (:3) I Need to Develop a Creative Strategy – Think Outside of the Box
“And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.’”
Lenski: He at once eliminates two distasteful courses. To earn his living by digging and downright hard labor is out of the question because he has not the physical strength for that; to go begging and to eke out an existence in that way are also out of consideration because he is ashamed to come down so low after his prominence for a long time.
b. (:4) I Need to Develop a Long Term Strategy – To Ensure Future Security
“I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the stewardship, they will receive me into their homes.”
2. (:5-7) Shrewd Scheming – Let’s Make a Deal
a. (:5-6) Cut a Deal for 50% Return
“And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’”
It was crucial to deal with each debtor individually and in secret so that the appropriate deal could be cut without the sharing of percentages with one another
b. (:7) Cut a Deal for 80% Return
“Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’”
3. (:8) Summary Evaluation
“And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.”
Donald Miller: wise use of present opportunities in a way which resulted in his future welfare.
Morris: Jesus’ followers must use their money for their spiritual purposes just as wisely as the children of this world do for their material alms. As our goal is “treasure in heaven”, we should use money for purposes such as almsgiving. This will gain us friends and it will stand us in good stead when money fails, i.e. when we die and money is of no more use.
Now in true chiastic structure fashion (abba), Jesus takes these same 2 insights and turns them around to make 2 key applications
II. (:9-12) 2 KEY APPLICATIONS REGARDING THE CHRISTIAN AND MATERIAL POSSESSIONS
A. (:9) Steward Your Material Possessions Shrewdly to Make Friends for Eternity
“And I say to you, ‘make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.’”
B. (:10-12) Steward Your Material Possessions Faithfully In Light of Eternal Accountability
1. (:10) Extrapolating Your Degree of Faithfulness/Unfaithfulness in Your Stewardship
a. Degree of Faithfulness
“He who is faithful in a very little thing
is faithful also in much;”
b. Degree of Unfaithfulness
“and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing
is unrighteous also in much.”
2. (:11-12) Explaining the Ramifications of Lack of Faithfulness in Your Stewardship
a. (:11) You Will Not Be Trusted with Stewardship of True Riches
“If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?”
Donald Miller: God tests our fitness for the “true riches” of heaven in our use of material possessions (vss. 10-12). Our use of money is a good test of our acceptance of his Lordship. If we allow money to rule us, and make it a rival lord, it is evident that God’s Lordship has not been wholly accepted (vs. 13). Since God is God, he can brook no rivals.
Morris: Faithfulness is no accident: it arises out of what a man is through and through. What a man does with the small things of life he does also in the big things. His faithfulness or his dishonesty appears throughout. Life is a unity.
b. (:12) You Will Not Be Trusted with Ownership
“And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”
III. (:13) KEY CONCLUSION = DON’T ALLOW YOUR MATERIAL POSSESSIONS TO RULE OVER YOU, BUT SERVE GOD INSTEAD
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Powerful finishing statement
Geldenhuys: In order to be able to serve and love God truly, man must be free from the servility accompanying avarice and attachment to material possessions. For although worldlings may labour under the delusion that they are free and independent, everyone who makes the accumulation and enjoyment of earthly goods the main object of his life is under the dominating power thereof and is every day performing servile labour for Mammon.